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MAPS (MIT Array Performance Simulator)

Haystack Observatory has been working on developing concepts, designs and tools for low frequency interferometric arrays for the past many years. These arrays will operate far beyond the routine operating regime of most existing interferometers. They will have to contend with imaging wide fields of view in presence of intense galactic background emission, severe ionospheric corruption of the incoming astronomical signal and RFI. The task of high dynamic range imaging will be further complicated by the presence of variable beam shapes effects. In order to drive the development of calibration and imaging algorithms for such arrays, the Haystack group is developing the MIT Array Performance Simulator (MAPS), a simulator work package which produces interferometric data-sets, realistically incorporating the various effects mentioned above. MAPS can accommodate the most detailed description of heterogeneous interferometric arrays, down to individual receptor level, allows station based beam forming and arbitrary descriptions of a time and location dependent ionosphere above the array and an arbitrary sky brightness distribution over the entire sky. The primary purpose of MAPS is to simulate realistic synthetic data sets to test the array performance and proposed calibration and imaging methods.

Current Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) designs plan on achieving near noise limited images using an innovative, but largely untested, calibration scheme. This simulator work package will also be used to explore the applicability of present day imaging algorithms to MWA data and serve as a starting point for development of new algorithms. A refined simulation capability will also be a powerful tool for searching through MWA design parameter space to help determine performance tradeoffs.Though MAPS was originally developed in context of the low frequency array projects at Haystack, it is a very general and versatile tool which can be used for simulating data from any interferometer. The fact that it is currently in use to assess the performance of SKA candidate arrays by the SKA Simulations Working Group is a fitting demonstration of its flexibility. A recent version of MAPS is now available for download.

Requirements:
In order to perform realistic and detailed simulations for an interferometer of arbitrary description MAPS must include all the effects which may corrupt the data and taken the following approach.

Some memos of particular interest: (These memos were generated as part of MIT's LOFAR effort.)

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